Trying to get a job done and ending up with a useless right arm

The pain is in my right arm—specifically the elbow—and it left that arm feeling almost useless and without strength.

The job was installing a stairway along one side of our hillside home. Erosion over the years had washed away the dirt under the foundation and rats were getting under the house and living in the floor space between the 1st and 2nd story.

1 - Stairway Project April 2015

At night, I can hear them above my head moving around and rattling the electric wires that run between the first story celling and second story floor.

2 - Stairway Project April 2015

The soil is hard, packed clay and to break it up requires elbow grease swinging a sledge hammer against metal foundation spikes or against a concrete chisel or using a miner’s pick. The third day on that job, I overdid it. The first two days were digging and cutting out the ivy that was covering the space where the new stairs are going to go, and the ivy was growing under the foundation and into the area under the house. Before I started, the space where you see dirt and future steps was covered with ivy that was growing over the air conditioning unit and up the side of the house.

3 - Stairway Project April 2015

It was all that pounding that put the strain on an aging elbow that wasn’t up to the work it once did decades earlier, and that put my right arm out of commission.

4 - Stairway project April 2013

Once the pain is gone and the strength returns, I’ll get back to work. Getting old is a learning experience that never ends when we ask our bodies to do what we once did when we were much younger. The photos show how much I finished in those three days, but they don’t show all the trips to Home Deport to buy the material I’m using to get the job done. From the photos, it looks like a small job to me, but my right arm is telling me something different.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His fourth novel is The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

Complete Kindle e-book Cover on February 18 Flattened

Lloyd Lofthouse also worked as a maître d’ in a nightclub called the Red Onion for a few years. A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

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8 responses to “Trying to get a job done and ending up with a useless right arm”

  1. Lloyd, it is madness to continue doing it on your own. As for fishing, I have fished in the Sierra with my husband. Nothing like that scenery.

    1. When I return to that job, I won’t be using the sledge hammer as much. I have a Bosch rotary hammer drill and a bit the length of my forearm that cuts through concrete like a hot knife through a cube of butter. I only wish I had thought of that tool before I started working on this project.

  2. Darn, that doesn’t sound good Lloyd. I once helped my brother breaking up old concrete with a sledge hammer. I was in my early 30’s at the time but was sore in the morning. However, I did feel good emotionally from the experience and jokingly told my brother he sould call it a workshop and have people pay him to do it for him. LOL!

    Seriously though, I did find Tiger Balm helped but my pain was in my shoulders.

    Bill and I are both pretty useless when it comes to home repairs but we have had good luck with using Craig’s List and paying someone to do it for us.

    1. I have a heavy-duty Bosch Bulldog Xtreme Rotary Hammer with bits as long as my forearm. I didn’t think about the drill when I was working on the project Saturday. I have bits for that drill that will cut through concrete like it is a hot knife slipping through a cube of butter. When the elbow has recovered, I’m going to use that drill to help cut away that clay, but I’ll still be pounding the metal stakes in with the sledge hammer. That particular tool doesn’t come with a hammer bit but some of the more expense Rotary Hammers do. I just don’t want to spend about $400 for another drill and bit just to pound in a dozen or so metal stakes.

      How was your visit to your mother?

      Oh, and I have “My Splendid Concubine” on its annual sale this week for $0.99. During the week four ads will run from eReader News Today, Riffle, The Fussy Librarian, and Choosy The first ad should be out later this morning about 11 AM PST. Yesterday, I pinned a Tweet to my Twitter page announcing the sale and the Amazon rank went from 233,751 before I dropped the price to 16,683 this morning after the price drop—and that’s before any of the ads have had a chance to run.

  3. Having hammered for most of my life, I fully sympathize with your pain. The regular nostrums, ice packs, Ibuprofen, and Tiger Balm will only do so much. If you still have work to do, try an elastic bandage on your forearm just below the elbow. It won’t fix the problem, but does tend to relieve some of the pain.

    1. Thank you. What about one of those supports with Velcro that you can strap on? I’ve seen people wearing them but I’ve never used one. I’ve seen ones designed for knees, wrists and elbows.

      1. Lloyd, I think anything that will keep some gentle pressure on those muscles is helpful. My wife says that B-12 is good for healing connective tissue, but in my experience, standing in cold flowing water with lightweight fly rod is the only truly reliable curative for the majority of work-induced ailments.

      2. Wow,that brought back memories—the fly rod—my first thought was of the uncle I was named after, Lloyd. He taught me how to fly fish along the Smith river in Northern California near Oregon, and he was in his early 90s when he did—about 20 years ago. He also gave me my fishing gear. I attempted fishing in the Sierras a number of times with a friend who caught fish one after another, even trekking to the John Muir trail and fishing for brook trout at about 11,000 feet. I learned one thing. I’m a horrible fisherman. The fish do not seem to like my hook. Everyone around me can be hauling in one after another and the fish shun me.

        Boy, there is nothing comparable to fresh caught brook trout fried quickly around a campfire at 10,000 feet in the Sierras with a sky splashed with more stars than I had ever seen in my life. At three in the morning, I wanted ti stand forever looking at that night sky.

        With my feet, knees and hips the way they are today, I wonder if I could carry the 60 pound backpack to reach the same spot.

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